My grandmother was a selfless woman, a fighter, someone always ready to take on the world no matter what difficulties or hardships may lay ahead.
Just after the second world war she was forced to leave her home with her husband and three young children. Her home, India, was being partitioned and torn apart in a way no home should. She was being forced to start anew, with only the clothes on her back and the knowledge that the likeliness of her return was next to non-existent. She was part of an exodus which would later be known as the largest mass migration in human history.
Unfortunately her home was not the only thing taken away from her during her painful journey. 500,000 people died during the partition because of the riots that ensued and her beloved husband, her strength in times of hardship, was one of the unfortunate few who did not make it. More recently, we would always teasingly ask her why she never remarried, but she would always defiantly say, “I already have a husband and I know I’ll meet him again one day.”
Her migration would end in Sialkot, a small city in newly created Pakistan as she already had some family who were residing there. She instantly had to become both parents, a mother and now a father, to her infant children.
Her late husband was a skilled engineer, who would write books about inventions he had made, but none of these books or inventions would survive and so to put food on the table for her children she decided to become a teacher in the local school. Her passion for teaching and caring for those around her along with her struggle and resilience would soon lead her to become the head teacher in the same school. She instilled within all of us, these very same ideals of seeking knowledge, having a passion for learning and teaching what you know to others.
16 years ago my father would begrudgingly get her to leave her home again, but this time it would be to come to the UK and stay with us, as her health had started to deteriorate and he wanted only the best for the woman who had given up so much for him. The doctors diagnosed her with dementia, a term used to describe a decline in mental ability causing memory loss, confusion, mood changes and difficulty with day-to-day tasks.
On the night of 30th June 2013 she passed away in her sleep with her family around her. She was 89 when she passed away.
She had battled with the dementia for many years but it had finally taken her away from us. We all knew this day was coming but it still did not make it any less painful. The hurt that you feel when someone so dear and loving to you passes away is a feeling like no other. You feel as though all hope and happiness have been sucked out of the world. Nothing interests or engages you. Your heart feels heavy, lost and in disbelief, it has a numbness to it which you feel will never pass. You try speaking but you cannot find the words. You try eating but the food has no taste. The loss is all encompassing.
Our time on this planet is limited. We all have a finite number of days and nobody knows what their number will be, but what I found to help the most during these difficult times was to reflect, embrace my spirituality and faith and to treasure the memories I had of my grandmother. As time passed I came to the realisation that I did not want to become somebody who counts the number of days they have left but rather I wanted to become somebody who makes all of their days count, no matter how many days I would get and in order to truly honour her legacy, I needed to continue the great work she had inspired me to do. To continue to work on the mental health charity that I had helped to start. To continue to try to bring happiness and improve the lives of those who I was around. To continue to become more selfless like her and live to serve rather than to be served.
And that is how I found my roar.